Sony just announced the PlayStation 4, along with some high level system specifications. The high level specs are what we've heard for quite some time:

  • 8-core x86-64 CPU using AMD Jaguar cores (built by AMD)
  • High-end PC GPU (also built by AMD), delivering 1.84TFLOPS of performance
  • Unified 8GB of GDDR5 memory for use by both the CPU and GPU with 176GB/s of memory bandwidth
  • Large local hard drive

Details of the CPU aren't known at this point (8-cores could imply a Piledriver derived architecture, or 8 smaller Jaguar cores—the latter being more likely), but either way this will be a big step forward over the PowerPC based general purpose cores on Cell from the previous generation. I wouldn't be too put off by the lack of Intel silicon here, it's still a lot faster than what we had before and at this level price matters more than peak performance. The Intel performance advantage would have to be much larger to dramatically impact console performance. If we're talking about Jaguar cores, then there's a bigger concern long term from a single threaded performance standpoint.

Update: I've confirmed that there are 8 Jaguar based AMD CPU cores inside the PS4's APU. The CPU + GPU are on a single die. Jaguar will still likely have better performance than the PS3/Xbox 360's PowerPC cores, and it should be faster than anything ARM based out today, but there's not huge headroom going forward. While I'm happier with Sony's (and MS') CPU selection this time around, I always hoped someone would take CPU performance in a console a bit more seriously. Given the choice between spending transistors on the CPU vs. GPU, I understand that the GPU wins every time in a console—I'm just always an advocate for wanting more of both. I realize I never wrote up a piece on AMD's Jaguar architecture, so I'll likely be doing that in the not too distant future. Update: I did.

The choice of 8 cores is somewhat unique. Jaguar's default compute unit is a quad-core machine with a large shared L2 cache, it's likely that AMD placed two of these together for the PlayStation 4. The last generation of consoles saw a march towards heavily threaded machines, so it's no surprise that AMD/Sony want to continue the trend here. Clock speed is unknown, but Jaguar was good for a mild increase over its predecessor Bobcat. Given the large monolithic die, AMD and Sony may not have wanted to push frequency as high as possible in order to keep yields up and power down. While I still expect CPU performance to move forward in this generation of consoles, I was reminded of the fact that the PowerPC cores in the previous generation ran at very high frequencies. The IPC gains afforded by Jaguar have to be significant in order to make up for what will likely be a lower clock speed.

We don't know specifics of the GPU, but with it approaching 2 TFLOPS we're looking at a level of performance somewhere between a Radeon HD 7850 and 7870. Update: Sony has confirmed the actual performance of the PlayStation 4's GPU as 1.84 TFLOPS. Sony claims the GPU features 18 compute units, which if this is GCN based we'd be looking at 1152 SPs and 72 texture units. It's unclear how custom the GPU is however, so we'll have to wait for additional information to really know for sure. The highest end PC GPUs are already faster than this, but the PS4's GPU is a lot faster than the PS3's RSX which was derived from NVIDIA's G70 architecture (used in the GeForce 7800 GTX, for example). I'm quite pleased with the promised level of GPU performance with the PS4. There are obvious power and cost constraints that would keep AMD/Sony from going even higher here, but this should be a good leap forward from current gen consoles.

Outfitting the PS4 with 8GB of RAM will be great for developers, and using high-speed GDDR5 will help ensure the GPU isn't bandwidth starved. Sony promised around 176GB/s of memory bandwidth for the PS4. The lack of solid state storage isn't surprising. Hard drives still offer a dramatic advantage in cost per GB vs. an SSD. Now if it's user replaceable with an SSD that would be a nice compromise.

Leveraging Gaikai's cloud gaming technology, the PS4 will be able to act as a game server and stream the video output to a PS Vita, wirelessly. This sounds a lot like what NVIDIA is doing with Project Shield and your NVIDIA powered gaming PC. Sony referenced dedicated video encode/decode hardware that allows you to instantaneously record and share screenshots/video of gameplay. I suspect this same hardware is used in streaming your game to a PS Vita.

Backwards compatibility with PS3 games isn't guaranteed and instead will leverage cloud gaming to stream older content to the box. There's some sort of a dedicated background processor that handles uploads and downloads, and even handles updates in the background while the system is off. The PS4 also supports instant suspend/resume.

The new box heavily leverages PC hardware, which is something we're expecting from the next Xbox as well. It's interesting that this is effectively how Microsoft entered the console space back in 2001 with the original Xbox, and now both Sony and MS have returned to that philosophy with their next gen consoles in 2013. The PlayStation 4 will be available this holiday season.

I'm trying to get more details on the CPU and GPU architectures and will update as soon as I have more info.

Source: Ustream

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  • shaolin95 - Friday, February 22, 2013 - link

    So you want to go back to DDR and 2-2-2-5 memory?
  • tipoo - Saturday, February 23, 2013 - link

    Because that's what I said.
  • wingless - Thursday, February 21, 2013 - link

    People here are talking about how AMD CPUs are slower than Intel CPUs. This is true in a WINDOWS environment. What we all must remember is that this system will have an OS and software specifically optimized for AMD x86 multi-threaded processors. AMD CPUs in Windows are victims of poor optimization. AMD doesn't crank out a widely-used compiler for their CPUs like Intel does. The PS4 simply will not have that problem.

    We're about to see the true power of an x86 system!
  • demacia89 - Thursday, February 21, 2013 - link

    Me thinks it is because Intel ones are simply too expensive and unlike to negotiate the price. It would be pretty silly spend half of the budget on cpu (i.e. $200 for an i7 for a $400-odd console) while the money could be better spent on somewhere else.
  • Q2013 - Friday, February 22, 2013 - link

    seems to me haedware wise the new xbox and the PS 4 will be very similar and they will have similar performance. The main thing diffeernt between them will be thier UI and online features. I don't really see the need to buy new systems yet as I have too many unfinished games oon both the 350 and PS3. Granted the graphics will be nicer but will the gameplay be that different? the social stuff is not important to gameplay to me, eventually I will get both new systems once something comes out that I must have Halo 5and the new Killzone would interest me . hard to justify the expense of new systems when the current ones still have life in them,
  • jamescox - Saturday, February 23, 2013 - link

    Many people here seem to have unrealistic expectations for PS4. The supposed "high-end" has moved a lot from where it used to be. There is no way you are going to get a $1000, 300 Watt graphics card in console targeted at approximately half that price (or less?). How many people actually buy these ridiculously expensive, power hungry cards anyway? I wouldn't buy a video card for more than $300 (and even that seems high); the price/performance ratio is not there for these super high-end offerings.

    Also, does anyone think that Intel or Nvidia was ever really an option? If they went with a separate CPU and GPU, this increases cost and power significantly (communication off chip waste power and reduces performance). Intel has plenty of CPUs which could have been an option, but they do not have a powerful enough gpu for a single chip solution. Nvidia isn't really an option either. They have the gpu, but no good cpus. Would you rather have an nvidia GPU with some integrated ARM cores? AMD is really the only one who can easily provide both a powerful GPU and sufficient cpu power for this chip. AMD wins on price, performance, and power since neither Nvidia nor Intel can offer this on a single chip.

    Direct comparison with the amount of memory in a PC is not relevant either. Most of the memory in a current PC is wasted; the GPU memory is really only a high-bandwidth cache for stuff that is in system memory. The 8 GB of GDDR5 on the PS4 should be significantly more efficient compared to the PC architecture. Hopefully it is all accessible from the GPU and CPUs, and is all in a single, cache coherent memory space; this seems like it this could be figured out from dev kits...?

    It would be nice if we could get a similar architecture in the PC space. With how small current CPU cores are, and with the memory controller on the CPU, it really doesn't make sense to have CPUs and GPUs separate any more. The actual integer cores are tiny these days. Most of the CPU is taken up with caches and FP units. If you have a GPU on the same die, then the CPU FP units are a lot less important. You still need to have FP units for mixed code, but for serious FP processing, just execute it on the GPU. Although, without using super fast on-board memory, the bandwidth to the GPU will be lacking. It sounds like Intel may be trying to solve this with more on-die memory; most people don't actually need more CPU cores anyway. I was expecting the PS4 to use a large on-die memory, but this probably isn't necessary since they went with such large and fast external memory.

    For a PC though, I would want the ability use multiple GPU/CPU/Memory cards.
  • ET - Sunday, February 24, 2013 - link

    "GPU memory is really only a high-bandwidth cache for stuff that is in system memory"

    That's not correct. There's no need to keep textures in system RAM once they're in graphics card RAM. Also you completely ignore virtual memory. When a game is ran on the PC, if other software is using RAM the game needs a lot of it will be paged out.

    The console, on the other hand, will likely not have virtual memory and will keep at least 1GB if not 2GB of that RAM for its operating system and other software (streaming, social, ...).

    And BTW, we do have a similar architecture on the PC side. AMD APU's have been available for a while, and AMD's plan has been to offer more and more integration with time. The main differences here are a skew towards more graphics power and less CPU power (which isn't necessarily good for a general purpose PC chip) and a lot more memory bandwidth. It would be interesting to see if any of these make it to PC space in some form.
  • sohcermind - Sunday, February 24, 2013 - link

    While I'm happier with Sony's (and MS') CPU selection this time around,

    Microsoft hasn't announced anything for all you know the cpu could be a 16 core cpu that was rumored a year ago.
  • DimaB - Monday, March 4, 2013 - link

    It is a shame the bottleneck will be physical media. We may have to discuss in the future the long load screens to the initial loads that will take place.
    I love the massive capacity Blu-ray affords, but it is the slowest kid on the block.
    Then the Mechanical Hard Drive is going to be an issue.
    I hope that Sony allows the ability to swap out the Hard Drive (Sata 3)and has support for SSD through the firmware that will boost the performance overall.
    Hell the option to load almost everything onto a SSD off of BLuray would be an incredible option..
    Xbox360 was allowing this if I am not mistaken..
    Overall it is appearing to be one heck of system for pure gaming.
  • IAmRandom301982 - Tuesday, April 16, 2013 - link

    Alot of odd comments being made about the future of PC gaming, and the current state of PC gaming.

    Someone said that most games need 4GB of RAM to play? Really? I can play multiple PC games like Simcity and Farcry 3 without even touching the 4GB mark on my system, and that is with Windows 7 - 64bit in the background ( which alone only uses 1.3GB of DDR3 ).

    I have yet to even get close to 100% RAM usage. No matter what I'm doing ( except if I'm purposefully doing it on a prime64 stress test ).

    8GB of DDR5 will be matched by 2015 at a reasonable price?! That is a funny thing to consider. PC's don't even use GDDR5 for anything but GPU's. There isn't a CPU even in the works right now that will be using GDDR5. Not that I've read or heard about anyway. As for a PC GPU using 8GB of DDR5 by 2015 that will be at a mass market price? Hell no. The only ones I could even search about are well into the 2,000$ range. Seems at the moment PC's are generally going to be using 3GB of DDR5 as a standard within the next few years.

    There are plenty of PC exclusives out there like the total war series, Metro and others that do not worry about the console world. Not sure why people think developers will actually hold back on their titles simply for the sake of the console world. All they have to do is create the engine for the PC and then basically turn everything to Normal / High settings for the consoles. Turn off AA, turn on DX9, etc. This type of thing is done on the PC all day long and it takes all of 10 seconds to change your settings around to match your system's capabilities.

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